I've found a new bike route into D.C. - not really "new" new, but new for me. I usually park up in Silver Spring or thereabouts and take the Cap Crescent. This is a pain in the ass because it puts more miles on my truck than I really need to. A "mixed" commute is mandatory, however, because there are few good routes into D.C. from the East, and even if there were good routes from near where I live, 30 or 35 miles each way makes for a long, long day. That commute is for spring and summer only, and not for every day.
It's hard finding convenient parking on the east side of town too. I don't really like parking up and riding from Hyattsville or other locales in Prince Georges County. Chunks of P.G. are high crime areas, including most of them where I would park up.
Maybe I've found a solution. Metro parking is pretty cheap and the parking lots are relatively secure. So it's not perfect, but it knocks the round trip drive down to 25 miles (from 45), and the distance is similar, about 13 miles or so. On days I want more mileage, Hains Point is still there, along with plenty of urban riding. And the trip in following Rhode Island Ave., more or less, is frickin' hilly once I get off the multi-use trail. I'm not a great lover of hills, but grinding up a half dozen short climbs twice a day along with accelerating away from maybe 40 stop signs does wonders for the leg strength. Plus there's a half dozen downhills on the other side of each climb, so that's nice.
The people who you meet on the paths, though... well, they're different on the paths cutting through Northeast. The only way to understand what I saw today on the trail is to compare it to the other stalwart trails in the local multi-use trail system.
W&OD (incl. Custis, Mt. Vernon and Four Mile): White professional male, Performance kit. Current Trek or Specialized road bike. Yells at you if he doesn't like your (1) headlight; (2) riding style; (3) looks.
Cap Crescent: Great diversity in the commuters, middle to upper middle class, mostly. Trending toward flat bar commuters, vintage steel road bikes, and irritating triathletes, who pass, curb you into a ditch, possibly sleep with you, all without saying a word.
Northeast Branch: A couple racers, many immigrants, really slow riding rec users, and perverts. Each bicyclist you pass shoots you a grateful look, glad you aren't a mugger or some guy they owe drug / gambling / bike parts money to.
Typical Problem Encountered on the Trail
W&OD: Angry dudes in a hurry to get to work, blind corners, guys on low slung recumbent trikes.
Cap Crescent: Human ambulatory trail obstacles, irritating triathletes hammering downhill; dangerous passing. Hot mommies who *love* to distract bicyclists. Distracted cyclists ogling hot mommies.
Northeast Branch: two dudes blocking the trail and consummating a drug deal when you blast around a corner.
Thing You Wish You Never Saw on the Trail
W&OD: The guy who got crushed by a Mercedes at a crossing in Falls Church. Better you than me, dude.
Cap Crescent: The dude on a vintage 10-speed, rocking the white-fro, wearing only a banana hammock and sunglasses.
Northeast Branch: Two dudes just off the trail, apparently on their honeymoon, doing a Reverse Double Lewinski.
Technical Problems With the Ride
W&OD: Areas under bridges get icy
Cap Crescent: Some frost heaves on the D.C. portion of the trail. Occasional sewage overflow just west of the Boathouse (rare).
Northeast Branch: curbs, transitions that are muddy or rocky, occasional used hypodermic needles on the path.
W&OD: Your handlebar gets crimped (and wayyy loose) after a huge panic stop brought on by sketchy road crossing
Cap Crescent: Girl on her first commute who has a flat, no spare, and, BTW, through axles that need a 7/8th's socket if you want to take the wheel off.
Northeast Branch: You enjoy a 5 flat day, with each flat due to different things (glass, hypodermic, busted pavement, curb with multiple sharp edges on it, and one flat resulting from God alone knows what).
Most Irritating Trail User:
W&OD: Guy in Performance USA Champion Jersey who screams at me about (1) inadequate lights; (2) I take up too much room; (3) for no reason at all
Cap Crescent: Uphill roller bladers. They use more lanes than a bowling alley. Downhill triathletes - testing the handling limits of aerobars each day, so you don't have to.
Northeast Branch: picnicking family that lets their 2 year old toddler play on the trail instead of the grass - because "it's safe."
Who Chases You:
W&OD: Elderly Korean lady from Tysons who is angry because you scared her tiny dog when you passed her.
Cap Crescent: Middle-aged triathlete who is angry because he hates his job and ain't sure about his wife either, and by God he's going to pass you before River Road and that will give his life meaning and make it all worthwhile...
Northeast Branch: Local kids on department store bikes who are better armed than the D.C. Metro P.D.
How You'll Die on the Trail:
W&OD: Hit by import car at road crossing.
Cap Crescent: Hit by triathlete at the bridge.
Northeast Branch: Hit by stray bullet at community park.
Okay, fine, in all seriousness, it's not that bad. I did interrupt a drug deal and a couple guys going at it like rabbits this morning, but it isn't that...
Oh, screw it. There's no working around it. This commute route kinda sucks. I'll stick to it 'cuz I need to shorten the drive part of my mixed commute and cut down on the cost, time and energy waste of it, but damn people. This one is going to be interesting.